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HomeNews ReportsKolhapur: Curious case of a Madarsa built on Pavangad fort's govt land, Hindu groups...

Kolhapur: Curious case of a Madarsa built on Pavangad fort’s govt land, Hindu groups raise voice against ‘illegal encroachment’, crucial discoveries from ground

The Tehsildar office of Panhalgad confirmed that the land on which the Madarsa has been built is govt wasteland and it falls under the control of the government.

The city of Kolhapur in Maharashtra is known for its rich cultural heritage, the glory of the Hindu temples and old forts built by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The city is home to several Hindu temples like the ancient Mahalakshmi Temple and the hilltop Jyotiba Temple complex which attracts a large number of devotees to date. But some of the areas in the city like the Pavangad and Panhalgad, despite of having significant historic importance are usually left ignored, therefore attracting ‘illegal’ encroachment and invasion by the non-Hindu community.

In one such major incident, the local Hindu community residing in the Panhalgad town of the city have complained that a Madarsa has been ‘illegally’ built on the fort of Pavangad which was built by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in the year 1673. The Madarsa named the “Madarsa Arbiya Zinatul-Quran” has been established on the government land and is said to have been registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.

Madarsa Arbiya Zinatul- Quran (Image obtained by OpIndia)

The students in the Madarsa are not local. They hail from various regions of Delhi, Bihar and West Bengal. “The Madarsa on the historic fort of Pavangad is illegal and the students studying here are not from Maharashtra. The historic significance of the fort is being maligned by such illegal encroachments. Many Muslims have also constructed their residences on the fort. We demand strict action against such illegal encroachments and also demand removal of these structures to maintain the sanctity of the historic fort,” the letter by Bajrang Dal to the District and the State Administration read.

Letter submitted by Bajrang Dal in January this year (OpIndia)

Accordingly, the District Administration has taken cognizance of the incident and has confirmed that the land on which the Madarsa Arbiya Zinatul-Quran is built belongs to the government. “It is govt wasteland (mulki pad jameen) which falls under the government’s control. We have begun the probe in the case. Action will be taken against any kind of illegality if any,” Panhalgad Tehsildar Manavi Shinde said while talking exclusively to OpIndia.

History of Pavangad and the Hindu Temples

The fort of Pavangad is said to have been built by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in the year 1673 alongside the main fort area of Panhalgad. In the later years, the fort was invaded by the Britishers. The fort built by the Chhatrapati to protect the main Panhalgad fort had three steep rock entrances two of which were destroyed by the Britishers after the invasion in the year 1844. The fort of Panhalgad was also dismantled. Today the said land falls under the government’s control.

A short ravine isolates Pavangad fort from the Panhala fort which has now become a home town to around 3,121 people (2021 census). As of today, the estimated population of the Panhala town is around 4,200. 

The chief defence of the fort is a scarped rock fifteen to twenty-five feet high. It also is an attraction to see several ancient Hindu temples beautifully carved in the rocks that still exist on the Pavangad fort and people from the Hindu community visit these temples like the Shiv Mandir, Hanuman Mandir, Narsimha Mandir and Lakshmi mandir from time to time to worship the deities.

Ancient Hindu temple of lord Shiva on Pavangad

Recently in the month of February, the Hindu community members organized the holy event on the occasion of Mahashivratri in the old Shiva temple on Pavangad. Notably, this temple is super close to the Madarsa in question, only at the distance of around 45-50 meters. The Hindu community members talked to OpIndia and said that the event was organized under police protection to avoid any trouble.

Madarsa houses 40 minors, all from Delhi, Bihar and West Bengal

Team OpIndia visited the Pavangad fort to confirm that several residents living in the area belong to the Muslim community and that they have built houses surrounding the ancient Hindu temple of Lord Shiva. A mosque has also been established at the old southern gate of the fort. As per the Hindu community members, the mosque is also an encroachment and has been built on the ancient cave of Hindu sage Rishi Markandeya.

On talking to the operators of the Madarsa on July 20, it was revealed that the Madarsa has been registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 but has been built on government land (mulki pad jameen). However, the authorities at the Madarsa refuted the allegation of it being built on government land. “This is a registered Madarsa and it’s not at all illegal. It does not encroach on the govt land and is very old. We have been running this for more than 50 years now,” claimed the Madarsa authority.

Image of the Maradsa obtained by OpIndia

The team also communicated to Yusuf Mujawar and brother Dawood of the Madarsa who said that the Madarsa had been registered in the year 1979 and that it has been on the Pavangad since then. On asking about the other details, it was discovered that the Madarsa houses around 40 minor children and none of them are from Kolhapur or Maharashtra. All the minor students studying in the Madarsa Arbiya Zinatul-Quran are from Delhi, Bihar or West Bengal.

Teachers at Madarsa teach Arab, Quran and no other course or language

As per the sources, the students here are taught the Islamic way of life and only the Arab language. No other language like Hindi, English, not even the local language Marathi is taught to them. “Around 40 students stay here. Some big people associated with the Madarsa help us with the resources. Three teachers teach here. All of them are from outside the state. The students studying here are Yatims (orphans) and we are just helping them with basic needs,” Yusuf Mujawar said.

On inquiring about the registration of the Madarsa, he said that it was yet to be done and was delayed due to their father’s death. However, his brother Dawood asserted that the Madarsa was registered under the Education department and that it has been built on a valid piece of land. “Nothing is illegal here. We are doing a good service,” Dawood was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, the team on the ground was made to sit inside the Madarsa office where the certificate of registration of the Madarsa was shown. As per the document, the said Madarsa has been registered as society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 in the year 1979.

Students of Madarsa say we get good food, taught Arabic only

One of the workers at the Madarsa was also questioned about the well-being of the children studying at the ‘institution’. When asked whether permission of respective parents is obtained before bringing the minors here for education, the worker claimed that all the children have been brought here only after valid permission from the parents. Notably, Yusuf earlier had said that the Madarsa is engaged in imparting education to Yatims (orphans).

OpIndia also obtained a video of students studying in the Madarsa where they confirmed that they were taught Arabic only and no other language. They also confirmed that none of the students in the Madarsa are from Maharashtra. “All are either from Bihar, West Bengal or Maharashtra,” they could be heard saying.

Kolhapur Police takes cognizance, says probe underway to know if its illegal

The Kolhapur Police is said to have taken cognizance of the incident and has directed the Panhala Police to look into the matter immediately. “In this regard, Panhala Police Station has been informed to take appropriate action,” the tweet by Kolhapur Police read on July 17.

Kolhapur Police on July 20 was also approached for comment on the issue. Officer Ganesh Patil who is looking into the case was not available for comment. However, the team was informed that the investigation in the case is underway.

Screenshot of tweet by Kolhapur Police

“The incident has recently come to the fore. Some of the members on social media are posting that the Madarsa is illegal. But this is yet to be proven. The city police has directed investigaon into the case and it is underway. The land has been measured at present and the illegality will be proven only after the reports are attained,” Kolhapur Police said.

Tahsildar confirms govt land, says land measured, awaiting TLR report

OpIndia also talked to Tahsildar Manavi Shinde in the given case. “The case was brought to our notice on July 17. The office immediately measured the land and the reports are still not out. If any illegality is proven, action will be taken. But the situation will only be clear once the report from the Taluka President Land Records is obtained,” Shinde added.

She also added that the Muslim population residing on the Pavangad is civic and that there never has been any issue from their side. “Even when we inquired on July 17, the Madarsa members submissively co-operated with us and said that they would remove or hand over the land if any illegality is proven,” she added.

However, the officer also confirmed that the land on which the Madarsa has been built is a govt wasteland (mulki pad jameen) and that it falls under the control of the government.

Tahsildar Office, Panhala

Who gave them the permission; clear case of Land Jihad : Bajrang Dal

Speaking exclusively to OpIndia, Bajrang Dal District President Suresh Rokade pressed that any illegal encroachment on the historic fort of Pavangad should be taken down. “This is clear case of Land Jihad. Pavangad and Panhalgad are historic forts representing the glory of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Who gave these people permission to establish a Madarsa here is a big question. The Madarsa is built on the mulki pad jameen of survey no. 128 which falls under the government control. The madarsa is not legally built,” Rokade said.

“We had given the letter demanding removal of such illegal encroachment in January this year but no action has been taken by the department in this case. We tried to follow up twice over the case but we were told that the investigation in the case is underway. The Hindu temple here is on the forest department’s land and the Madarsa is close to it on the mulki pad jameen. Around 40 students study here and none are from Maharashtra,” he confirmed.

He also opined that there should be no Madarsa on the historic fort. “No Madarsa is there on any historic fort. This is probably the first of its kind encroachment. Just clear case of Land jihad,” he said.

Houses made of roofing sheets denied permission on Pavangad

Notably, while on the Pavangad fort, team OpIndia observed that there are several Muslim residents staying in the homes that are constructed using roofing sheets. However, no information regarding the official permission given to them to built such residences could be obtained.

Recently, one such under construction house at the south gate of the Pavangad fort was asked to be taken down by the Panhalgad Municipal Corporation given the hazardous location close to the steep valley, as informed to OpIndia by the local Hindu group. “This property is near the south gate of the fort. The government didn’t allow them to build a house here. But there is a dargah on the edge of the south gate. Muslims have also made changes to the old fort secret roads. This is unacceptable,” Rokade indicated.

Dargah on the edge of the South gate of Pavangad (R); roofing sheet house denied permission (L)

Conclusion

The Madarsa in question, Madarsa Arbiya Zinatul-Quran is registered but is built and expanded using the roofing sheets on the land that falls under the control of the government. Several contradictory statements were obtained from the Madarsa operators. While one of the Madarsa authorities said that the students studying at the ‘institution’ were Yatims (orphans), other one said that the permission of the parents were obtained before bringing the minors here for education. One of the authorities also said that the Madarsa was registered under the Education’s department however the other one said that the registration was yet to be done and it was delayed due to their father’s death.

However, it was learnt that the Madarsa is registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 and is built on the Mulki Pad Jameen which falls under the government’s control.

Further, who gave the Madarsa authorities permission to built an ‘institution’ on the government land is unclear as the Madarsa was just in possession of the Society’s Registration Certificate which has been obtained by OpIndia. The matter would have been much clear if any document regarding the ownership of the land could be obtained from the Madarsa authorities. But later it was confirmed from the Tahsildar office that the land on which the Madarsa has been built belongs to the government and that it is a mulki pad jameen.

The legality of the Madarsa remains in question until the arrival of the Taluka President Land Records (TLR) report sought by the Tahsildar. However, the Tahsildar and the Police have confirmed that the land on which the Madarsa is built is a government land and that strict action will be taken ‘if any’ illegality is found.

Also, the operators of Madarsa have stated that they would remove the Madarsa and submissively hand over the land if any illegality is proven, as informed to OpIndia by the Tahsildar.

Similar reports reported in the past

Earlier, a similar incident was reported from the city of Nashik, where a local Hindu group had objected to the presence of ‘Sayyed Shah Vali Baba Dargah’ in the premises of an 18th-century-old historical monument that once served as the administrative headquarters of the Peshwas, the Sarkarwada.

Rushikesh Dapse (Bapu), a social activist associated with a local Hindu organization, had claimed that the Dargah in the Sarkarwada, which was once home to Peshwas, is an ‘illegal encroachment’ and that it shall be removed as it represents the wrong history of the Peshwas.

Also, an illegal Mazar had surfaced at the Mahim coast area in Mumbai, Maharashtra. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation on March 23 employed bulldozers to demolish the illegal construction around the Mazar. This is after Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray played a clip in his Gudi Padwa address and exposed that an ‘illegal dargah’ has come up off the Mahim coast in Mumbai. He demanded the removal of the illegal dargah and said that if it is not demolished immediately, then his party would construct a huge Ganpati temple at the same place.

Illegal structures had also been built inside the Pratapgarh Fort where Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj had killed Afzal Khan. The old grave has been over the years converted into a religious shrine by Islamic groups. Despite orders by the Bombay High Court, the Maharashtra government was hesitant to remove the illegal structures inside the important historical monument.

In November 2022, the Shinde government finally sent police and local administration to remove the illegal structures around the grave.

NOTE: Required documents, audio and video recordings related to the case are in possession of OpIndia.

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Siddhi Somani
Siddhi Somani
Siddhi Somani is known for her satirical and factual hand in Economic, Social and Political writing. Having completed her post graduation in Journalism, she is pursuing her Masters in Politics. The author meanwhile is also exploring her hand in analytics and statistics. (Twitter- @sidis28)

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